Berembun Forest Reserve - Negri Sembilan Malaysia
For those lucky enough to live the days of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, remember the good old days of pre – gadgets, fast food and global warming fears. When traveling was by bus, bicycle and boats and crossing rivers were by wooden flat barges and sampans.
The simple life. Knocking off at 4.30pm from work gave many the luxury of spending quality time with family, and one such luxury was the outdoors. To the beach at Morib and Port Dickson, to the rivers and waterfalls for picnics and a swim were welcomed treats. No Universal Studios and Theme Parks. It’s just plain fun, appreciating nature’s gifts.
As decades pass, more natural environs are being torn down for development and for resources. Even those that have been gazetted as permanent forest reserves have been degazetted and logged. (A recent one would be the Rantau Panjang Forest Reserve ,Batu Arang) .
pak ah kau starting a fire to warm the shivers after a dip in the pool
There is one forest reserve worth exploring though – The Berembun Forest Reserve in Negri Sembilan. Intact and of a good 4000acres in size, it stretches from the outskirts of Seremban town in Negri Sembilan right through to Kuala Pilah , Negri Sembilan’s Royal town. The original vegetation was dominated by Keruing (Dipterocarpus spp.) , Meranti (Shorea spp.) and Balau kumus (Shorea laevis) of the dypterocarp genus which generally dominate the low lying forests in Malaysia. Logging was conducted on the fringes of the reserve and the Orang Asli Reserve land (Natives Reserve Land) in the 1950’s and 1980’s but regeneration has done well in the area. The forest reserve has a high average annual rainfall and was gazetted a protected area during the colonial times. Its importance is due to the water catchment area that supplies half Seremban’s water needs.
As we trek into the reserve, it becomes increasingly clear as to why this tract of land has been retained in its natural state. Brooks trickle down the slopes, channeling rain and underground springwater into streams snaking around large granite boulders and fallen tree trunks and eventually emptying out into rivers below. The ambience becomes clear and blurred at the same time. Like looking through a camera lens. Catching a glimpse of the smallest details, like a dragonfly gently resting on the water’s surface in a cascading rock pool whilst the background melts into a haze of greens and browns.
Our guide for the day was an elder who lives in a nearby Temuan village by the name of Pak Ah Kau . As he led us on a trail deeper into the reserve, he quietly collected a few plants along the way. When asked what the plants were for, he smiled and meekly replied that his wife had asked him to collect some for her to control her high blood pressure. For the natives of the land, these forests remain their home. Pak Ah Kau used to live in the forest with his family in his young days. They lived up on the ridges of the hills. With only 3 huts that constituted the entire village, the families were self contained. They hunted and foraged in the forest for their daily needs and if they had excess, they traded with the middlemen in the village below for essentials like salt and rice. Those were the carefree years. After Malaysia’s Independence in 1957, the Temuan people were resettled into villages built by the government. They were given housing and some were allocated pieces of land where they were taught to plant rubber and other commodities. Today, Pak Ah Kau’s village houses some 50 families with a population of 350 residents. The working generation find work in factories and farms nearby and a few still return to the jungle to harvest durians and petai to be sold in town or to middlemen. The children go to school but very few if any ever any make it to Secondary school. The Temuan here have been promised Reserve Land in the area but this has yet to be gazetted. Like many Orang Asli communities in Malaysia, their livelihood lies in a delicate balance that is still emotionally and spiritually connected to the jungles and forests that their forefathers have roamed for thousands of years. And yet, they are constantly being pushed to the edge by development and the Government’s fervent need to ‘modernise’ and ‘convert’ them. For now, Pak Ah Kau and his community of Temuan people living at Kampung Baru, Pantai are hanging on to the little of the old ways left for them.
driveway to the dusun
Pak Ah Kau brought along his son for the trek. He passes his knowledge of the forest down to his children and to anyone wanting to learn. It is advisable for those who cannot converse in Malay, to bring someone who can translate as Pak Ah Kau speaks Malay.
The trek is some 45minutes through gentle terrain leads to a secret spot in the forest. The Batang Penar River gushes down a rock-filled slalom and into the valley below. On its journey down, its momentum is broken by granite ledges, creating cascades that gently fill up rock pools where visitors can sit and cool off under the canopy of the rainforest.
The reserve offers a variety of activities, from picnic at the river to birdwatching and if time permits a trek to the mountain peak would be a challenge.
To maximize on time spent at the reserve, we stayed at the Dusun. The Dusun is just the touch for a holiday that involves a bit of nature’s indulgence. The 12 acre orchard was purchased some 20-odd years ago for the purpose of escaping the hustle and stress of the city life and to provide some sanity and quality of life to a young and growing family. Helen and David, the owners of The Dusun spent many years nurturing this piece of shrub land into a mature, landscaped extension of the forest nearby. The land is shaded by angsana trees, fruit trees such as durian trees, duku langsat trees, lemon trees and rows and rows of Mahogany trees which Helen is especially proud of. Their organic vegetable plots are planted with chillies, leafy veggies, herbs, tomatoes etc. and water is channeled in from the river, providing fresh, clean water for bathing and cooking. The Dusun is by no means basic. There are all the amenities for guests to indulge and yet not too much to take away the limelight from the star of the show – the location.
berembun forest reserve and the orang asli reserve in the background
With so many years living and working on the orchard, David and Helen have built a home that few can. Like knowing a person, it also takes a lot of time to get to know your land in order to bring the best out of it. The chalets are positioned so that it funnels the natural breeze through without also getting completely soaked by the rain or compromising on the vista. The chalets do not need air conditioning. At night the cool air blowing in the forests warrants for a cardigan and Helen has provided duvets in the room for chilly nights. Guests can make themselves a hot meal in their own chalets, there’s a kitchenette with a good selection of fresh herbs like mint, rosemary etc and sauces like Oyster Sauce, Soya Sauce, Dark Soya Sauce to flavour your home made dishes. Breakfast is provided but the rest of the meals will be on your own. There’s a choice of driving down to Kampung Pantai village for come Chinese, Malay or Indian food or just come prepared with a cooler and groceries. And a bottle or 2 of wine would be nice to end the night. Enjoyable nights!
Via North South Highway
From the North-South Highway 1, take the Seremban exit and turn left.
Follow the signboards through town to Kuala Klawang/Jelebu/Kuala Pilah, Routes 86 and 51. Seremban has a one way system through the centre of town and then turn left after the fire station.
All the turns are signposted. Look out for a Shell and Mobil next to each other. Take the left after these stations, which is Route 86, Kuala Klawang.
Follow 86 for 10 km to Kampung Pantai. Drive through this small town, you will see a mosque on your left.
Turn right after the mosque and before the Pantai Police Station. This is Jalan Gunung. Follow this road past the Chinese school SJK(C), then an Orang Asli kampung, both on your right. The road winds through oil palm and orchards. At the 3rd km, you will see a signboard “Dusun Berembun”. To get to the reserve, drive straight on until you get to the Loji Air.
Via Lekas Highway
Tthe new Lekas Highway shortens the journey from KL to the Dusun to just one hour. And its easy! From Ampang/Hulu Kelang you can use the Middle Ring Road towards Jalan Cheras and enter Plaza Tol Grand Saga (Batu 9 & Batu 11). From Batu 11, heading to Saujana Impian and Kajang Perdana and that road will lead you straight to Lebuhraya Kajang Seremban (LEKAS, E21). Stay on the Highway until you reach the Jelebu exit; turn left, and you will be in Pantai in five minutes.
|*Getting there information courtesy of Helen Todd, The Dusun|